Napier talks quarterbacks

by - Senior Writer -
Napier said that the time missed due to baseball has not impeded Parker's development

CLEMSON –Perhaps the biggest question mark for the Clemson Tigers heading into the summer, and the one question that has caused Tiger fans the most angst during this offseason, is whether or not incumbent starting quarterback Kyle Parker will be under center when the Tigers open the season against North Texas in September.

Will Parker be a high draft pick in professional baseball and forego the rest of his football eligibility, or will he stick around and try and guide the Tigers back to the ACC Championship Game?

No one will know the answers to those questions any time soon, but offensive coordinator Billy Napier was asked recently about the quarterback situation, and whether redshirt freshman quarterback Tajh Boyd would be ready to be the starter should Parker leave to play professional baseball.

Napier said that Boyd earned valuable experience in the spring, especially when Parker was playing with the Tiger baseball team, but still has a long way to go.

“I think Tajh, it's typical of a redshirt freshman year and a spring practice for a redshirt freshman,” Napier said. “Very much like the other redshirt freshmen on offense - Bryce [McNeal], Brandon [Thomas], and Roderick [McDowell]. All three were comparable in terms of their process. I think Tajh got an extremely valuable experience. He had a chance to go out and be the quarterback of the first group for more than half the time. I think he realized it's going to take truly great effort and attention to detail and preparation to be a successful Division I quarterback, and that ability alone is not going to be good enough.”

Napier then followed that statement by saying that Boyd needs to take advantage of the summer in an effort to further hone his skills.

"I think Tajh is excited about the summer and the chance to have more time to prepare,” Napier said. “Now that he knows what is expected, just like most football players that are that age, they take their approach to the offseason and each day a little bit differently. I think it was difficult for him, like it has been for most redshirt freshmen and their spring practice. Very much like Kyle, I think this summer will be a great opportunity for him to take some steps forward."

Boyd has tremendous and upside and his physical skills are just what you look for in a college quarterback, but Napier said that in order for Boyd to take the next step he has to improve his decision-making, especially after trying to force several throws into coverage during spring scrimmages.

“Decision-making. I'm sure he tells you guys the same things,” Napier said. “The three areas we're trying to attack in the summer is procedurally making sure he's very sound and understands everything we're trying to accomplish and the value in that. We're trying to attack decision-making and ultimately have a thought process for each play. Eliminate the mental aspect, where you can truly use your physical skill to compete at a high level. Enjoy and relish the opportunity to compete. Similar to how you saw Kyle play down the stretch [last season]. I think he finally became comfortable mentally and knew what it took to prepare. He was confident in what he knew, the knowledge he had and his preparation throughout the week. He was really able to be a competitor and enjoy that.

“Tajh is in that same stage. He's obviously different in terms of who he is and what type of background he has. It's all relative to the people we've been around and the experiences we've had. The third area is just to increase his knowledge of the game of football. Down and distance, field position. Defense in particular is an area I feel like he has a lot of room to improve. Understanding fronts, line games, twists, stunts, blitzes, pressures, coverages, and seeing the big picture and putting it all together, and therefore eliminating a lot of that excess thought and time right before the ball is snapped, which will allow him to anticipate what's coming and make better decisions. “

Next up for Boyd will be those summer workouts, and Napier said that Boyd needs to take full advantage of the time before fall camp starts.

"He really just laid a good foundation this spring,” Napier said. “He has a lot of work to do. I've got to do a better job of coaching him. I think he's where we expected him to be. The next phase is the summer. It's a huge opportunity to develop some leadership and ownership on our football team, understanding we won't have coaches involved."

Parker missed several practices this spring in order to play baseball, and then missed a key scrimmage and practices late in the spring with a sore back, and Napier was asked if playing in two sports hurt Parker’s continued development.

Just from having done it last year, he's more consistent and more effective and better prepared and physically more polished in all the areas where he's a football player every day. Is he capable of being effective straight off a three-game series? Yeah. The kid's got uncanny athletic ability and just a knack for playing the game. He's got 14 games. He's got quite a foundation. The recall and the attention to that, not to mention last spring and last preseason. So he's got a great understanding of what we're doing. He's had to prepare for several different defenses.

“He's capable of coming out there and being effective in between baseball practice and games, but he'll be the first to tell you that you just can't do it maybe at the highest level you could do it if you did it all the time. Once he's a football player full-time, I think his game will get better when he's solely focused on that one sport. Similar to how I think to maybe he'll do now following the spring in baseball. He'll do better because he's solely doing baseball now.”

Napier was then asked what Parker needed to work on before August, and Napier said there are just a few fundamental pieces that need to be corrected.

“I really believe the kid has untapped potential in terms of the way he played down the stretch,” Napier said. “Now that he's played 14 games and has been through a season, his best football is ahead of him. He now knows how to prepare and some of his better games down the stretch, if he can duplicate those and maybe play a little bit better. Fundamentally he's got a few things that are easily fixable that just come with being there every day. Grooving in that release and that motion and the ball position, and working really hard on his footwork and his fundamentals holding up in pressure situations."

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